Snowdonia is one of Wales’ National parks. Situated at the base of Wales’ largest mountain, Mount Snowden, it offers fantastic kayaking opportunities regardless of whether you are a novice or a pro and allows you to take in some spectacular views while doing so. There is also the opportunity to explore other areas on foot from cliffs, stunning mountain views and old slate mines if that takes your fancy!
Before we delve into some of the best locations for kayaking Snowdonia, lets look at some general advice for your trip:
Weather, flow, tides, visibility
All of the above can seriously impact on how much you enjoy your kayaking experience. Significant rainfall can cause challenging currents. Flow is something that can be checked by visiting the National River Flow Archive website, prior to your trip and is always valuable information to ensure you know! Strong winds can also create some challenging waves, so it’s also worthwhile taking a note of. Taking note of when high and low tide is can also help in terms of avoiding getting youself stuck in a sandbank. All of above also depend somewhat on your own abilities, which leads to the next point of consideration:
Conditions within your own level
Having prior knowledge of the conditions of the water as detailed above should mean that you have the awareness of whether a particular area is within your capability level. If you are not sure, it would be best to play it safe and stay cautious, rather than landing yourself in a difficult situation.
Tell friends/family, have a communication device
Always ensure that there’s at least one person who knows where you have gone off to! Always ensure that you also have some kind of communication device, whether it’s a mobile, or a radio etc, that you can use to call for help if needed. It’s always best to travel with a guide or an experienced kayaker who knows the waters well.
Training and falling in drills
While not necessary, this is always beneficial. Having some training and some practice of falling and how to camly and safely get yourself out of that situation can only be a positive!
Appropriate clothing and nutrition
You don’t want to be sat for extended periods of time, cold and soggy, so appropriate clothing is a must! You may also want to consider whether you would feel more comfortable wearing some safety gear too, they are always helpful, even when you’re a powerful swimmer. Ensuring good nutrition is useful too, you want to ensure you can keep your energy levels up, particularly if going out for longer periods.
Where to go Kayaking in Snowdonia
Ok, so lets now get into some locations in and around Snowdonia which are ideal for kayaking:
Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid)
This is Wales’ largest natural lake at 4 miles long. There is a launching fee which is payable to Snowdonia Natural Park authority. This offers a kayaking experience with beautiful mountain scenery. You are welcome to take your own kayak and go at your own pace, particularly if you are more experienced or know the waters well. There is also a watersports centre, where individuals and groups can book to have lessons and improve their confidence and skills when on the water. These range from £40 for a half day session to £80 for a full day.
Barmouth, River Mawddach
Barmouth is a beautiful little Welsh town, with a wide sandy estuary. The river Mawddach is 28 miles long and runs down into the Mawddach estuary. The river itself offers some pretty extreme white water kayaking suitable for the more confident, experienced kayaker, whereas for the less experienced kayaker, or for those looking for a more relaxed experience, the Mawddach estuary offers a gentler experience. The river offers a stunning mountain backdrop to your kayaking experience. If going down the river, this is best done 2 hours either side of high tide! It is also worthwhile noting that the river does feature quite a few twists and turns and a map is recommended to make yourself aware of these. You should also be aware of the weather, strong winds can create some troublesome waves.
National White Water Centre, Bala
The National White Water Centre is on the Afon Tryweryn, near Bala. This offers some amazing white water rafting opportunities, however, there is also a good stretch of white water river for paddling. The centre has plenty of courses available with highly experience trainers, to enable kayakers to upskill and improve their confidence and abilities when out in the water. The water is controlled by a dam which ensures that the water is released at a controlled, measured rate. When these releases occur os controlled by Natural Resources Wales and they must into consideration factors such as flood control, recreation and water extraction. It is therefore important to remember that the centre itself cannot control the water release but they do always aim to update their website as soon as NRW makes them aware, so checking the National White Water Centre website regularly when planning your trip is a must! There are two main sections of the Afon Tryweryn, the upper river which is approx 2km and has grade 3-4 rapids and the lower river which features rapids of grade 2-3.
So there you have it, three top sites around Snowdonia that offer fantastic kayaking experiences for all experience levels! The biggest take away from this, regardless of which site you are thinking of visiting is to plan your journey well! Think about the weather, the water flow, any potential issues such as strong winds and any waves these may create. Ensure you have the necessary equipment, you don’t necessarily need your own kayak – there are plenty of opportunities to rent one – but you do need to ensure you have the appropriate waterproof clothing and footwear. Keep ontop of your safety, make sure someone knows where you are and that you have a means of cummunication at all time!
Most importantly though… Enjoy kayaking Snowdonia! Enjoy the planning process, the buying of materials, the packing, the travelling to Snowdonia. And when you are finally there, enjoy that adrenaline rush of getting in that kayak and hitting that water!